A new exhibition at the White Cube at Mason's Yard introduces experimental work from across the 50-year career of one of Eastern Europe’s most prominent artists.
At first her work seems to be defined by its boldly graphic aesthetic, starkly yet elegantly minimalist. However, if you linger in this show you will begin to realise that this aesthetic – the appearance of her art – is almost completely unintentional. It’s a byproduct of the various scientific systems and processes Maurer has created, and from where all her art stems.
Now approaching 79, Maurer was born into the Hungarian Soviet Republic, the first communist state set up after Soviet Russia. She had the unusual freedom to roam between communist Eastern Europe and the West since 1967 because her husband, the Hungarian artist Tibor Gáyor, had Austrian citizenship.
'It is only [a state of] order that you can break free from,' she says, explaining her obsessively methodical way of working. Maurer has described order as one of the few 'fundamental laws that affect the entirety of a human being'. Her work celebrates the innate geometry and mechanics in all working aspects of life, particularly human form and action – and always with a view to finding its counter-motion, be it chaos or absurdity.
In her 1979 film Properties she is partly seen performing a precise series of measurements on a roll of paper, using only her body. She creates a new metric system, exactly one quarter the length of herself. She then demonstrates that this is the perfect system for measuring all possible lengths of her own body – feet and hands, shoulders and shins – as if her whole body derives from one sizing system. Watching her rolling awkwardly around on the floor, her method seems random and absurd at first, but gradually we begin to see the logic of it, to marvel at the mathematical perfection that every chaotic, organic motion derives from.
This little show is an understated gem. It reveals an extraordinarily comprehensive artistic career that became, essentially, an experiment – a search for the precise right angle where the lines of order and chaos, logic and absurdity, intersect.